This is a repost of a blog article from my 1.0 blog originally posted on 18 September 2015
Heard the sad news earlier this week that the owner of Bellmore Philatelics in Massapequa Park, New York, Marvin Frey, had passed away. I have been dealing with Bellmore off and on for many years. I was a huge fan of their "in home approval service" where they would send out an assortment of old albums, dealer cards etc and let you pick the items you wanted at a percent of Scott catalog value. For me it was a wonderful way to re-activate my collecting interest after several years away, and most of my French Colonial purchases made over the past few years have been via Bellmore.
Alas, with the passing of Mr Frey, Bellmore announced that it will no longer be providing its approval service.
For me this brings up a question that all collectors have to deal with. What is the best way to source items for your collection? These days, the internet of course provides the collector with options to purchase items that simply did not exist before the Internet Revolution. Before you were limited to what local dealers (or dealers within your country) could offer, and comparison price shopping was at the same time quite difficult.
Today though the collector is truly blessed with a cornucopia of options, from general auction sites such as eBay to collectibles markets such as Delcampe (my favorite) or Zillions of Stamps, to all sorts of individual dealers who do maintain strong internet presences posting their pricing and stock lists for all to see. There are also several approval services, my favorite being the approval branch of British auction company Universal Philatelic Auctions. They provide amazing customer service and work very hard to send you selections to look over that fit your collecting interests.
In some ways today is definitely the best of times to be a collector, since it is now much easier to find the items that you want for your collection AND be able to compare prices to find the best deal to fit your budget.
Still, I am going to miss receiving those approval selections from Bellmore. It was a fun way to pass an afternoon and allowed me to exactly see the condition of the stamps I was going to purchase. Sadly it's increasingly rare to find approval services that give you the luxury of viewing at home first before you buy. Pictures on the web of front and back of stamps help, but there is nothing like seeing the actual stamp in person before you buy to make you feel confident you are purchasing what you want, and of course there are lots of horror stories about items listed on eBay or other sites that turn out not to be as described. But as the excellent service from UPA shows, stamp dealers that provide approvals still do exist.